WASHINGTON, January 19, 2017 — The Russian Foreign Ministry has extended Edward Snowden’s asylum until 2020. Snowden originally sought asylum in Russia in 2013, after he released thousands of documents related to American intelligence and surveillance operations to the press.
Snowden’s lawyer said that he will have the opportunity to apply for Russian citizenship next year. Former CIA Director Michael Morell believed that Putin would hand over Snowden to the U.S., despite there being no extradition treaty between the two countries. Morell said that Putin’s decision to hand over Snowden would be “the perfect inauguration gift” for Trump.
“Seeing Snowden arrive in the U.S. and placed in handcuffs would go far in healing the wounds that exist between President-Elect Trump and his Intelligence Community. The IC, more than anyone else, wants Snowden brought to justice,” writes Morell.
Snowden praised Obama’s decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence, saying, “Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama.”
Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013, when Russia granted him a temporary stay. Snowden spoke to the Guardian in September, arguing that what he did was morally right and led to an overhaul of secrecy laws. U.S. government officials have accused Snowden of violating the Espionage Act, giving him the possibility of 30 years in prison if he returns and is convicted.
The public views Snowden both as a traitor and a whistle-blower, making him one of the most controversial people of the decade. He is also admired. He has adapted to his life in exile, spending time with his girlfriend and using social media to express his opinions on various political issues.
During his first years in Moscow, Snowden did not criticise Putin or the Russian system, but he has recently become more outspoken about his adopted country. Snowden has strongly criticized Russia’s policing of the internet.